“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.”
- John C. Maxwell
The above quote is true for professionals in any field but is particularly relevant for those working independently. Having chosen to work on your own, you no longer are a part of the cycle of performance reviews and annual trainings that come with working in an organisation. You are accountable for your own professional growth and improvement.
The first step in taking charge is goal setting. Have a clear vision for where you want to be and then identify the necessary skills and training needed to reach that goal. If you are not content with the current status of your work, then find ways to improve. If you are looking for a change, identify role models and outline the requisite knowledge and skills needed to enhance your portfolio. Complacency particularly while working independently is not an option, especially in a cut throat competitive market and a declining economic outlook.
One then needs to explore different options for personal development and depending on the time, budget and requirement, choose the option that suits you best. For some who need a refresher for their existing skills, traditional educational opportunities through colleges or trainings might work, whereas specialized learning through books and online courseware can work for others who need to acquire new skills. Another good way to keep on top of new developments across sectors of interest is becoming a member of online groups and forums on LinkedIn and other social networking options. It is imperative to get started and take an active interest in your growth if you wish to succeed.
When you are just starting out getting a few anchor clients is of utmost importance. To make sure that you are getting enough assignments, ensure that you promote yourself adequately as an independent consultant and about the services you offer. For this it is imperative to stay networked and updated – one needs to go beyond social media and build contacts offline as well, and ensure one is part of circles where your potential clients are present so that you are targeting the right audience.
At the core however, you need to ensure that your existing clients are comfortable referring you and even hiring you again. Word-of-mouth publicity and testimonials are integral in the growth of your goodwill.
Finally, maintain your sales, marketing and PR efforts even when you are not working on an assignment. Do not let your efforts wane once you bag a project or a client since it is an ongoing process for which you need to dedicate time consistently. As a Forbes article says,
When you’re an employee, you can just focus on doing the job. When you are a consultant, you have to do the job and sell the next one.